Law Firm Releases Report on Former APFC Executive Director Rodell’s Termination
Posted on 09/30/2022
Law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C. conducted an investigation into the process of the termination of Angela Rodell from the US$ 73.7 billion Juneau-based Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) in December 2021. The report concluded that the trustees of APFC did not follow its own charter and governance policies in evaluating its former executive director, Angela Rodell, although its decision to terminate her was likely a legal action. The report is posted on the Alaska Legislature’s website.
According to the report, “The investigation focused on three primary issues: (1) the processes employed by the APFC Board of Trustees to assess and evaluate the Executive Director’s performance; (2) the reasons underlying the trustees’ decision to terminate the Executive Director’s employment; and (3) what role, if any, political considerations played in that decision.”
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In addition to the factual conclusions set forth in the Executive Summary, and based on the evidence, we provide the following findings:
1. Trustees did not follow the APFC Charter in all material respects with regard to their evaluation of the Executive Director. The Trustees did not use an evaluation instrument or process to assess the Executive Director’s performance that was consistent with the Executive Director Performance Evaluation Policy.
2. Trustees lost confidence in the Executive Director’s leadership and her relationship with several Trustees was strained. There were several incidents that Trustees testified about that eroded their confidence and trust in the Executive Director’s leadership. The cumulative effect of these incidents motivated the decision to terminate the Executive Director, even though these incidents were not directly addressed through the evaluation process. The majority of Trustees were concerned that the lack of improvement in the relationship between the Executive Director and the investment team would lead to investment team departures.
3. Collectively, the reasons expressed by the Trustees for their decision to terminate the Executive Director supported the termination as a matter of employment law, in that they were a valid exercise of the Trustees’ ability to terminate an at-will employee such as Ms. Rodell. A loss of confidence in the chief executive of an organization such as the APFC is a sufficient legal reason under the legal standards applicable to at-will employment in Alaska.
4. APFC’s structure and importance as the primary source of funding for general government services and payment of dividends inevitably drew the Executive Director into political discussions and debates. The Executive Director, as the designated spokesperson, took actions and made statements that Trustees perceived as being “political” and advancing a personal “agenda”.
5. There was no direct evidence or credible circumstantial evidence that the Governor knew in advance that the Executive Director would be terminated. There is no direct or circumstantial evidence that the Governor directed the Trustees to terminate the Executive Director.
6. Trustees did express a concern about the political impact of certain actions and statements by the Executive Director. These concerns were a factor the Trustees considered in the executive session discussions that lead to the termination decision. These concerns did not rise to the level of politics being a substantial motivating factor in the decision to terminate, but did undermine the confidence Trustees had in the Executive Director’s ability to continue as Executive Director.
7. In order to prevent political concerns from becoming a factor in evaluating the Executive Director’s performance, the APFC would be best served if Trustees use an evaluation tool or instrument and process that takes politics out of the equation. The Charter provisions on evaluating the Executive Director and the process for conducting the evaluation would reduce or possibly eliminate the political influence in evaluating the performance of the Executive Director, if followed by the Trustees. The stability and independence of the Fund can only be protected by insulating the Executive Director from political pressures and political repercussions of doing the job.
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